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Companion Titles


BaronSFel001
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The trend actually continues to this day with notables such as The Force Unleashed, and perhaps made its biggest leap with the limited Super Game Boy culminating in the Game Boy Advance connectivity to the Gamecube that enhanced gaming for both compatible titles involved. Today, that has given "companion game" a literal meaning. But back in the 90s when handhelds connecting to tabletop consoles was not a regular thing (to say the least), the classical approach could be taken in one of two ways: 1) directly port the 16-bit title to the 8-bit handheld in order to grab as much of the original experience as can be; 2) create a unique game that can stand on its own well enough that those stuck on 8-bit can be just as satisfied. In my experience with classic gaming, neither approach seems less common than the other. Nintendo had the Super Mario Land and Donkey Kong Land series. The story of Sonic's 8-bit world is so alike and yet so different from the "mainstream canon" games that many consider them distinctly separate.

This is not the place to discuss what is canon or not (opinions on that, including my own, are already on these boards at least twice). Rather, I want to make the observation of the trend that most of Sonic's 8-bit titles are indirect (#2-type from the previous paragraph) companion games, 8-bit complements to the 16-bit. Taking each game on its own, it is hard to find a Sonic game that is not up to the task. Unlike some other properties which are just scaled-down ports that change little from the original, a Sonic collection is not complete without the Game Gear lineup. Nevertheless, considering the release times and not-so-distinct gameplay elements, I believe I can identify each handheld companion game with its big brother...

Sonic the Hedgehog is obvious, though both games are very much unique from each other

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 connects most with Sonic CD (it was in development at the time, Sonic is alone in a rescue plot, and especially consider the music for Green Hills Zone)

Sonic Chaos goes with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Tails playable for the first time, new moves)

Sonic Spinball and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine should not need a mention, but I am including it just in case

The Sonic Drift games are definitely not a part of this

Sonic Triple Trouble is with, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Knuckles steals Emeralds and constantly harrases Sonic and/or Tails)

Tails Sky Patrol appears to draw influence from Chaotix

Tails Adventures does not appear to fit in with this trend, though it does draw elements from many past games

In a reversal of this trend, Sonic 3D Blast adapted the control scheme, level design, and collection gameplay from Sonic Labyrinth

The arbitrarily-titled Sonic Blast fits most with Sonic & Knuckles (it is a sequel to Triple Trouble, and Knuckles is playable with his special moves)

After the 16-bit generation, the companion games trend came to an end in both of its forms. The competition between the Game Boy and Game Gear was long past its peak, the dominance of the Game Boy meant that handheld gaming would continue to be trapped in 8-bit as primary consoles went lightyears ahead (Sega tried to counter this with the Nomad, but the first real 16-bit handheld success would be SNK's Neo Geo Pocket years later), and the 16-bit titans themselves had become the affordable alternatives: all these factors combined to make companion games on handhelds impractical. That is not to say that it came to a complete end, but it may as well have, with only Nintendo putting out the occasional Game Boy Color title that could connect to the N64 (direct ports at this point were out of the question, and the ones that did come out were often scoffed at and rejected - understandably - for their inherently low quality). Eventually, handheld companionship to the tabletop consoles would have a renaissance in the form of what Nintendo had been doing since the Super Game Boy, and take on a whole new meaning as it was not merely software helping to promote each other, but mated hardware. Sonic wasted no time in picking up on this...

Some people to this day believe that Sonic Pocket Adventure was meant to link with Sonic Adventure - that is how close these games (not to mention Sega and SNK) were

Sonic Advance 1 and 2 were made to go with Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, but handled Sonic Adventure DX the same

Sonic Pinball Party was closer to Sonic Adventure DX, but just as good for Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

That is all I can personally speak about (because this is how advanced my Sonic gaming gets), though with the wireless connectivity possible between Nintendo's and Sony's modern consoles, I am sure this has continued as strong as ever. With handheld consoles going truly 3D and tabletop consoles reaching the peaks of on-screen gaming performance, I have noticed a return to traditional companion gaming in both forms as well. Looking back on it all, it is great to know that much of the time those of [few] of us who for one reason or another could not go 16-bit were accommodated nicely, often with our own unique libraries. The only drawback now is that, for collectors, both 8-bit and 16-bit are necessary pieces to the puzzle because of this.

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I used to try and match the games up all the time, since I started on the Game Gear for a while before I got my own Genesis. I'd say 8-bit Sonic 2 more closely aligns with Genesis Sonic 1 for lack of the spin dash and Sonic 2 for featuring Tails. I also noticed the connection between Chaos and Triple Trouble's UP+JUMP dash and the peel out in Sonic CD. The idea seems to be borrowed from the other game. I considered myself lucky to be able to play Triple Trouble, since it was almost like a sequel to S3&K with Nack as a new character. The 8-bit Sonic 2 is still one of my favorite Sonic games. But I wouldn't say these companion titles are entirely gone if you look at the Wii's line up. The relationship between Wii and HD is kind of like the one between the 8 and 16-bit consoles. Sega made the scaled-down version of Unleashed for the Wii owners, and even though they share a story, the games are very different things because of technical limitations. In some cases you need to get more creative on smaller platforms. The Storybook games are entirely dedicated to providing unique titles on the Wii, and I'd compare them to Chaos and TT which were actually a series in Japan, Sonic & Tails 1 and 2. Now that handhelds are powerful enough to at least mimic a home console experience, I think we'll see more of these companion games. The M&S Olympic series has DS companions, and (I haven't played it) there was some talk about how the story mode on the DS was worth picking the handheld up for. The Superstars series also has handheld release but I don't know much about that.

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I used to try and match the games up all the time, since I started on the Game Gear for a while before I got my own Genesis. I'd say 8-bit Sonic 2 more closely aligns with Genesis Sonic 1 for lack of the spin dash and Sonic 2 for featuring Tails. I also noticed the connection between Chaos and Triple Trouble's UP+JUMP dash and the peel out in Sonic CD. The idea seems to be borrowed from the other game. I considered myself lucky to be able to play Triple Trouble, since it was almost like a sequel to S3&K with Nack as a new character. The 8-bit Sonic 2 is still one of my favorite Sonic games. But I wouldn't say these companion titles are entirely gone if you look at the Wii's line up. The relationship between Wii and HD is kind of like the one between the 8 and 16-bit consoles. Sega made the scaled-down version of Unleashed for the Wii owners, and even though they share a story, the games are very different things because of technical limitations. In some cases you need to get more creative on smaller platforms. The Storybook games are entirely dedicated to providing unique titles on the Wii, and I'd compare them to Chaos and TT which were actually a series in Japan, Sonic & Tails 1 and 2. Now that handhelds are powerful enough to at least mimic a home console experience, I think we'll see more of these companion games. The M&S Olympic series has DS companions, and (I haven't played it) there was some talk about how the story mode on the DS was worth picking the handheld up for. The Superstars series also has handheld release but I don't know much about that.

The thing about the Mario and Sonic games on the DS is that they have roughly twice the ammount of events of the Wii versions and thats why the Wii versions are brought out 1st, to make quick cash, but aswell as the DS version of the sequal having twice as many events it also has an RPG-like story mode.

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